Justin Jones reinstated to Tennessee House after GOP expulsion

Nashville, Tennessee - Nashville's metro council voted Monday to reinstate Tennessee state lawmaker Justin Jones, who was expelled from his elected position last week by a Republican supermajority.

State Rep. Justin Jones speaks at a rally ahead of a vote for his reinstatement days after the Republican majority in the Tennessee House decided to expel him.
State Rep. Justin Jones speaks at a rally ahead of a vote for his reinstatement days after the Republican majority in the Tennessee House decided to expel him.  © REUTERS

Jones received all 36 council votes cast Monday afternoon, with three absences, before being sworn back into office at 5:15 PM.

Prominent figures including US Vice President Kamala Harris had rallied around Jones and two colleagues, who have come to be known as the Tennessee Three.

Tennessee state legislators voted on expelling Jones (27) along with Democratic representatives Justin Pearson (28) and Gloria Johnson (60) on Thursday. Jones and Pearson, who are Black men, were removed from office while Johnson was not.

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"We called for you all to ban assault weapons, and you respond with an assault on democracy," Jones told Republicans before their vote to reprimand him.

He later told ABC News his removal from office means the needs of his constituents are being put on hold.

"We definitely have unfinished business," Jones said.

State lawmakers allowed Johnson, a white woman, to retain her position. She told CNN her being spared "might have to do" with her skin color.

Tennessee Three expelled after protesting gun violence

Tennessee state Reps. Justin Pearson, Gloria Johnson, and Justin Jones raise their fists after a rally with US Vice President Kamala Harris.
Tennessee state Reps. Justin Pearson, Gloria Johnson, and Justin Jones raise their fists after a rally with US Vice President Kamala Harris.  © REUTERS

Conservative House Speaker Cameron Sexton said the vote to expel Jones, Pearson, and Johnson was held because the representatives "knowingly and intentionally (brought) disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives."

The trio led a March 30 call for stronger gun control measures after three 9-year-olds and three adults were shot dead by a heavily armed former student at Nashville's Covenant School. Jones and Johnson spoke out of turn through a bullhorn during that proceeding.

Many Democrats have painted the nation's latest mass shooting in a schoolhouse as an issue that should be addressed by limiting the public availability of powerful firearms. Republican lawmakers largely oppose most restrictions on gun ownership.

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Pearson, who's from Memphis, Tennessee, could be reinstated Wednesday when the Shelby County Commission meets. He and Jones previously expressed their determination to serve in the posts to which they were elected.

"We will not stop. We will not give up! We will continue working to build a nation that includes, not excludes, or unjustly expels," Pearson tweeted after being removed from office.

He called the expulsions an "historical abuse of power" in an interview that ran on ABC News' Good Morning America on Monday.

Tennessee GOP accused of selective expulsion of Black Democrats

Only two other Tennessee representatives have been expelled since the Civil War era: one over a bribery scandal and the other in connection to numerous allegations of sexual misconduct.

US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer appeared to indicate he felt the expulsion of two Black Democrats was selective.

"Apparently Tennessee Republicans care more about stopping CERTAIN Democrats from speaking than they do about stopping America's kids from getting shot to death in schools," the New York Democrat tweeted last week.

Cover photo: REUTERS

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